Robert Bedeski


China, Chinese history, water management


Over centuries scores of sinologists have sought to define the essence of China. Philip Ball addresses and goes well beyond the materialist paradigm of Karl Wittfogel’s hydraulic thesis, which described the role of water management in China as stimulating state development. In his theory, government emerged as the central institution to manage transportation, flood control and irrigation. Ball also sees water management as critical in Chinese civilization and injects his description with spiritual and moral content, drawing on poetry, art, biography and extensive reference to historical events. His book is an exploration of the role of water in China’s culture, history, state administration, and economy.